When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii console one of the first games that sprung to most gamers mind was Pilotwings. The cult-favorite franchise has been without a sequel for quite some time now and with the release of Nintendo’s new motion control scheme a follow-up seemed a little more than fitting. Now while the big N has still refused to deliver this sought after sequel to us the guys and gals at Konami and Hudson have decided to deliver a placeholder for your biplane desires. Wing Island is the first in what is sure to be a long line of imitators with a laundry list of features reminiscent to Nintendo’s fabled franchise.
If you think logically making a flight game on the Wii is a perfect collaboration. Using the motion sensing technology to control yaw and pitch, if done well, could create a unique experience you are unable to achieve on any other console. Unfortunately Wing Island has decided to use a puzzling control configuration that makes the game feel more like a chore than anything else.
You hold the Wii remote horizontally while pointing it at the screen. To tilt your plane left and right you simply roll the controller in said direction. If you want to fly up pull back on the remote however, if you want to dive you have to aim the Wii-mote down. This control scheme is not at all what we had anticipated and is almost disappointing considering the vast amount of options the developers could have implemented.
Even with the whacky control scheme the game is still highly accessible, so if you can deal with the questionable design choice the game still plays surprisingly well. Controlling your plane works well, but trying to handle formations still proves to be frustrating at times. The missions are simple, yet enjoyable, but repetition does set in after about an hour or two. Thankfully this game thrives on the traditional Wii formula of fun in short spurts.
If the crazy control scheme didn’t puzzle you enough the storyline of it certainly will. You play the role of Sparrow Wing Jr., a bird-man who, for some unknown reason, has traded in his real wings to fly a plane. Sparrow inherits his grandfather’s business Wing Inc. and each mission has you performing tasks to keep the company going strong. These can range from simple pick-up and drop-off missions to dropping bombs on the rocks below to clear paths for travelers. The story is pretty much irrelevant to the game itself and comes across as more of a backdrop between missions than anything else.
Outside of the core single-player game you will find a host of multi-player modes. These are your basic additions and consist of simple competitive endeavors such as balloon popping and other mundane challenges. You can opt to go with two Wii-motes, but there is also a mode where two players can compete with one single Wii remote and nunchuk combo. For the most part the multi-player aspect feels a bit tacked on and wears thin pretty quickly. It will distract you for a while, but it isn’t going to add much life to the title.
Finally we come to the visuals. From the outset the game has a very plain and simple feel about it both from a technical standpoint as well as presentation. The environments sport some truly low-resolution textures and the detail in them is sorely lacking. While Wii games are never known for their visual flare this game doesn’t even reach the standards set by the console and that is probably the reason for my disappointment. It does however run at a blistering frame rate and just happens to one of the few games to support 16×9 widescreen and even 480p for those of us with component cables.
Wing Island is not going to replace Pilotwings anytime soon however, if you are looking for a quirky arcade flying game with short spurts of unadulterated fun, then you will be satisfied. Wing Island works best in small doses as do most Wii games and at the very least it isn’t just another collection of mini-games. Fans of eccentric Japanese games will find plenty to enjoy here, so long as they don’t try playing it longer than an hour or two. Certainly worth a look, but definitely not for everyone.